I want to say a huge, “THANK YOU”! Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to read my articles. I want you to know that it means the world to me. I don’t take it lightly that you carve out a piece of your day to connect with someone living (most likely) a day away from you. –I live in Guam, which is a U.S. territorial island located in the Pacific Ocean. We are located among the Mariana’s Island chain and is the largest island in Micronesia. Some nearby countries are the Philippines, Japan, and Australia. I thought I should throw in those fun facts.
Well, today I wanted to chat with you and share a bit more about myself and how as a wide-eyed 17 year old I joined the United States Coast Guard, became a Health Services Technician, and my love affair with medicine and this man here began.
I have quite a unique life story and I would love to let you into my world. I’m going to focus this article on my early adult years in the United States Coast Guard. In future posts I’ll highlight what it was like growing up traveling every 3 years as a military child, my dream of becoming a physician, my passion for travel, and my current goal of connecting with women from around the world through storytelling and networking. So, let’s begin.
While in the Coast Guard I was exposed to so much of the world; from living and working in an (alpha) male dominated environment to treating migrants fleeing a hostile country.
I want to begin by saying that I love the Coast Guard for all the lessons it taught me and the opportunities it provided me with.
Throughout my time in high school I knew I wanted to go into the medical field. I was drawn to caring for people, the mechanics and intricacies of the human body, and medical procedures. I came from a military upbringing and knew that I could gain valuable experience quickly through serving in the military, as well as funding for college. My mom and stepdad both served in the U.S. Navy, but I knew I didn’t want to go that route. One day my stepdad suggested the Coast Guard after meeting some “Coasties”, and after a little discussion and research I decided that was the service I would join. I wasn’t an amazing student in high school, but I had teachers tell me that they really thought it would be better for me to go off to college because I had great potential. But my parents wouldn’t pay for college and I was still unclear of exactly how I wanted to work within the medical field. I knew I didn’t want to waste my time or anyone’s money, so the military was a perfect fit for me. I had an absolutely amazing experience in the Coast Guard and don’t regret the decision for a single moment. So many things blossomed from that small choice that I can’t even fathom what my life would be like had I chosen another path.
So in 2004, about 3 months after graduating from high school, I enlisted into the United States Coast Guard. My family had recently moved back to the U.S. from Naples, Italy. I soon left for basic training in Cape May, New Jersey. While there I received orders to my first unit in Staten Island, New York. This unit was so exciting for me. It’s mission was to patrol the waterways of New York City and New Jersey, provide security during high profile events like United Nations meetings, rescuing endangered boaters, and scooping out the bodies of the dead who’d jumped from the major bridges. While stationed at this unit I was placed on a waiting list to attend Health Services Technician (HS) A-school. HS’s are also called corpsman. About a year and a half later I went off to Petaluma, CA for training again and graduated from HS A-school a few months later. While there I also trained and became a Nationally Registered EMT.
My first unit out of A-school was a ship called the USCGC Dallas stationed in Charleston, South Carolina.
The Dallas’ main mission was counter-drug operations, but we also provided humanitarian aid and came across migrants traveling to the U.S. from various Caribbean islands. This job was probably the most fulfilling and meaningful part of my Coast Guard career. Not only did I feel like a true asset to my fellow service members on board the ship, but I was able to provide care and treatment to those in very vulnerable situations. While on the Dallas I worked alongside a higher ranking HS Chief who believed in me. He and I worked closely together providing routine, emergency, and preventive medical care to a crew of about 190 people. We also were in charge of caring for any migrants or drug traffickers that were taken on board our ship. I really loved being able to play a neutral role as a healthcare worker, while also serving my country. The chief I worked for provided me with so many opportunities to grow in my medical knowledge and skills. While on the Dallas my passion for medicine was set ablaze. I realized that this was what I was meant to do. I was meant to care for those who had limited access to healthcare. To provide not just medical expertise, but to provide a level of dignified support. My work on the Dallas gave me first hand exposure to people fleeing oppression.
While stationed on the Dallas I was honored to receive multiple awards, but particularly the Coast Guard’s Atlantic Area Sailor of the Year, for work I did during my chief’s absence that exceeded my rank and age (I was 18 at the time). This showed me that my passion was accompanied by ability; something I would need and hold onto for years as I set out on a career and dream that faced many hardships and disappointments.
While also stationed on the USCGC Dallas, I met my husband. It was totally a freak kind of thing. I was in charge of checking in new members to out boat but for some reason or another, I didn’t actually meet him when he checked in. We were well into one of our trips before I saw him for the first time. I was immediately attracted to him and knew we would be together. P.s….this was SO not allowed, so I’m not sure what I was thinking. I’ll be sure to tell the whole story in a later article. But to make a long story short, after less than a year of dating we were engaged, I received orders to a new unit in Miami, Florida, and B and I were married.
During my time in Miami I decided that I wanted to leave full time service in the Coast Guard to pursue my education. I knew that the higher in rank I got in the Coast Guard, the less patient contact I would have. I would be pushed into doing more administrative work, which I knew would drive me crazy. I also knew that I wanted to have the freedom to pick up and serve wherever I felt called. Obviously, while attached to the military those opportunities are limited. I now had a much clearer idea of what I wanted to do and knew this was a right decision for me.
In 2008 I moved back to Charleston, South Carolina to be with my husband. I joined the Coast Guard Reserves and began attending college full-time, taking a variety of science and general education courses. I quickly realized I wanted to aim for medical school and a career as an OBGYN. I’d always been drawn to women’s healthcare. Even while in the Coast Guard, I would always ask to assist the doctors with the female patients, which was very few and far between. The units I had been stationed at were majority male, on top of the Coast Guard already being a very male dominated occupation. So anytime a woman came in to be treated I wanted to be right there.
After living in Charleston for a year, we were moved to Buffalo, New York. There I began serving as a mentor to pregnant refugee and low income women throughout their pregnancy and postpartum period. It was extremely eye opening and equally emotionally fulfilling. It was a period in my life where I truly felt humbled by the strength I saw in my mentees and valuable in how I was able to serve them with the very little I could offer. My first mentee Weliya is from Somalia, but grew up in a Kenyan refugee camp. She has 4 children. My second mentee, Brandi, is from New York and was a young mother of 3, and has since had her 4th child. I attended school full time while in Buffalo, which was very demanding on top of working part time with the Coast Guard and volunteering. As I drew closer to my final year of undergrad I decided to completely separate from the military to focus entirely on school. I would soon be preparing to take the MCAT and apply to medical schools which I knew would require lots of attention. But just as quickly as I made that decision, B and I’s world took a major turn. In literally 30minutes while sitting in Starbucks preparing for final exams, my dreams of attending medical school and becoming a doctor were turn on it’s head. And I’m so thankful.
I’ll share more about what happened and where I am now with schooling and my desire to become a doctor. I hope you found this snippet of my life interesting and you found something to relate to. Do you have questions about any part of my story thus far? Are you currently or have you previously served in the military? Are you supporting a military service member as a wife, friend, or family member? Please tell me what your experience has been like in the comments below. I always reply.